Once upon a time, businesses used technology to get work done. And while you can argue that many still do, technology has become a much bigger component to success. It would be more accurate to say businesses are technology, and the ability to execute that technology successfully sets them apart from competitors.

According to the Dell and Intel Future Workforce Studyconducted by research firm PSB that was released today at the Resnick Aspen Action Forum, workers understand the shift and, in turn, expect more of their workplace tech.

The study, which surveyed 4,000 full-time employees from small, medium and large businesses across 10 countries, found 57 percent of workforce members expect to work in a smart office within the next five years. Moreover, almost half of the study’s respondents believed the offices they work in today are not smart enough. The numbers were even more pronounced among millennials, of which 42 percent said they would quit a job that offered substandard tech and 82 percent said workplace tech would influence which job offer they accept.

If businesses want to keep attracting quality talent, it’s crucial to create smart workplaces that meet employees’ technological needs. Intel’s vision for transforming the workplace is deeply rooted in experience and backed by industry-leading technology innovations that continually focus on the future. By applying Intel’s principles of workplace transformation – through our collaboration tools, latest processors and security solutions – businesses can address the challenges of a changing workplace with the latest tools and technologies to gain a competitive edge. In collaboration with ecosystem vendors and providers, we continue to explore and expand new ways of working within the evolving enterprise – all while recognizing that people are the ultimate source of innovation.

Smart Office of the (Near) Future

Smarter workspaces embrace new technologies that make it easier for people to connect and get things done. For example, smart and connected meeting rooms, like ones made possible by Intel Unite solutions, empower employees to collaborate with colleagues wirelessly, interacting by using touchscreens, voice and video. This need for collaboration is driven by a globalized workforce, in which employees are expected to collaborate with colleagues across buildings, cities and multiple countries.

Bringing people together has advanced beyond the point where static whiteboards, conference calls and email will suffice. Collaboration software of today enables meeting participants to interact with presentation material remotely and make notes and annotations in real-time that are instantly viewable by all participants as if everyone were in the same room.

Smart offices may also embrace the Internet of Things (IoT) movement to enable artificial intelligence (AI) where digital assistants can fetch information or help with navigation by providing turn by turn instructions to the nearest printer for a visiting employee. Approximately 62 percent of the study respondents believe the use of AI will make their jobs easier and 50 percent believe AI will improve productivity.

We may also see augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) play a role in employee training. Two-thirds (66 percent) of the study’s respondents say they would be willing to use AR or VR in their professional lives, and 46 percent believe the technology would improve their productivity.

Smart office possibilities are endless, but the fact that workers are seeking out these types of workplaces suggests that a smart office future is nearing reality.

Playing Catch-Up

Many employees describe their workplace tech as outdated and glitchy when compared with the technology they use in their personal lives. In fact, more than half of those surveyed in the study say the biggest time-wasters on the job are a result of slow software or hardware. Intel advocates replacing workplace technology at least every three to four years to help businesses stay productive and competitive. PCs older than four years have 25 percent higher repair costs and 40 percent greater productivity loss per repair than newer PCs.

If workers are really choosing their employers based on the state of their technology, it makes sense for businesses to pay more attention to the tools they provide. An upcoming workplace trend to watch is the wireless workplace in which employees can wirelessly “dock” their devices to power, a monitor, keyboard, mouse and other peripherals. This set-up allows workers to move freely around the office and conference rooms with zero cables to connect.

Securing the Smart Office

Security wasn’t a major theme of the study, but the changing workforce has enormous implications for business security. The more workers connect and collaborate on-the-go and outside of their company networks, the more they put their data and their businesses at risk. Hackers are relentless, and data breaches happen every day. Last year, the average cost of a data breach for a large organization was $5.9 million1. No company can afford that kind of loss.

Passwords are no longer enough. Hardened security built into the processor, like 6th generation Intel Core vPro processors with Intel Authenticate Technology, enables identity protection through multifactor authentication that allows logins using a combination of factors, such as a fingerprint combined with an employee’s smartphone. Unlike passwords, such hardened security cannot be spoofed.

Final Word

Without question, technology is driving a lot of the change happening in business today. There are technology implications in everything – from how businesses attract and retain employees, to where and how workers do their jobs, to how they communicate and collaborate. I believe this study confirms that businesses that utilize the latest technology will be best able to get and keep the best workers, ensure the highest levels of productivity and position themselves to compete effectively.